Much fun was had this past Sunday when Mark and I hopped in the van and took Dexter down to the old town of Kinzua to visit the popular hiking trails at Rimrock in Warren, PA.
Growing up, my dad and grandpa used to take us kids there several times a year to picnic, hike and show us the back woods of a town that no longer exists. My dad left Kinzua in 1961 when the government implemented Eminent Domain to take over the land in order to build a dam. The history of the area is rich and colorful, and Johnny Cash even sang a song about the whole thing. You can listen to it below and perhaps understand the importance of this area of the US.
But rather than focus on the atrocities committed against the Native Americans, we set out to enjoy the beauty of the land on what turned out to be a rather glorious Sunday afternoon.
Set against the backdrop of the mighty Allegheny River in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest as part of the Allegheny Mountains, this is a popular tourist destination – especially this time of year. The vibrant colors of the autumn leaves are literally jaw dropping if you hit at the right time of year. However, the best of the fall is felt in just a few days in early to mid-October. A few days too early or too late and you will miss the truly majestic beauty of the place.
There are some amazing views to be had from the overlook area at the top of the hiking trails. Our visit was punctuated by the sound of thousands of hornets which had made their nests on the railings and made it difficult to find a place to lean out and look down. But it wasn’t a big deal, as we were there to EXPLORE!
Carved into the rocks are stone stairs which are very steep and very narrow and not for the faint of heart. At 20 weeks pregnant and carrying a squirmy toddler, I felt like a real champion when I made it down into the caves and came out amongst the beautiful trees.
We had a great time climbing the huge boulders and sneaking into empty bear caves trying to see how far we could get. Mark had a great time climbing the steep cliff faces and trying to wield the diaper bag he carried while playing Tarzan.
And while it was hard to set Dexter down for any length of time due to the ever-present felled branches, slick rocks and other detritus, we had great fun setting him on tree trunks and stone benches, or just giving him sticks to play with. At only 20 months old, he is proving to be a real outdoorsman, and it’s nearly impossible to keep him reined in when we’re out and about.
And though he tends to look somewhat sad and desolate in photos, I can assure you that Dexter was in his element. As we walked, I told him stories that my dad used to tell me – about the Penn’s Woods Folks: little people who lived in the forest who came and went with the wind and who you could only ever see out the side of your glance. One direct look, and they’d disappear! I spent much of my childhood trying to catch a glimpse of one of these elusive sprites, and it filled my world with magic that I hope to pass on to my son.
Once we’d had our fill of hiking (or more to the point – once my bladder and 20-week-pregnant exhaustion kicked in!), we made our way back up the mountain and sat overlooking the beautiful mountains around us while we snacked on Ritz Bitz Crackers that Mark was smart enough to bring.
The day wasn’t over yet, though! I had one more stop to make on the way home, and though the wind had kicked up a bit, it was a short hike to get there. I’m talking about the Bent Run Waterfall, an attraction which is best viewed in the spring thaw, but which is still a beautiful place to visit this time of year.
I knew Dexter would enjoy himself, as he loves anything that involves water. The train is quite indistinct at times, and when wet (as it nearly always is!), the rocks and leaves make for a treacherous journey! Lucky for us, we didn’t go very far, making it only about halfway up the trail to one of the lower falls. Had I not been pregnant and Dexter a little older, we might have ventured further, but it was enough on this day.
Mark was very much in Super Dad mode and was quite adept at holding Dexter tightly whilst jumping from rock to slippery rock across the stream so that he could get Dexter close to the fall. Amidst my worried admonishments to “BE CAREFUL,” he kept his grip and showed Dexter some nature close-ups that I just couldn’t do for myself.
I satisfied myself to show him the lichen and leaves and the little swirls where the water met the rocky shore. I showed him the leaves which fell like colorful confetti amongst us. I showed him the beauty of my hometown and how much there is to do that doesn’t involve television, video games or plastic toys.
This is the gift I can share with my boy, and I look forward to when his little brother comes and I can take him out to see it, as well.
All in all, it was a beautiful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.